The hospitality sector is going to be hit hard, after ‘Brexit’ and the cost of exchange rates, the loss of major airlines and Thomas cook it has had a tough time already and now we are faced COVID-19 with no fly zones, no flights and complete lock down.
Just when you thought business was hard, it just got even harder! Thanks a bunch COVID-19
However now is NOT the time to panic, it’s critical that we focus on what we can do and how we can make good use of the time available to us. How can we implement processes that allow us to communicate on a one to many basis, while providing a good service throughout.
Hopefully the following points will help you to overcome these challenges and enable you to look forward with optimism and excitement, remember some of your competitors will not survive this.
The ones offering 5% commissions or free onboarding this is where quality and loyalty will see you go from strength to strength.
1/ Retain your cashflow
It’s critical you help your guests and ensure you do as much as you can. But can you really afford to refund every guest, while not bringing in new business?
Guests with insurance or who have paid via credit card maybe able to claim via these methods, I have also heard my clients who are prioritising guests who are elderly or most at risk by offering them free date transfers.
You could also offer a voucher that they can use within the next 12 months, this gives the guests opportunity to relax once the situation has died down and you retain the cash within your business a win win.
It’s critical you consider the business health along with the consumer concerns showing emotion and empathy will help both of you to find a suitable resolution.
We hear it all the time cashflow is what kills businesses, so please make these changes for the long term not just for dealing with COVID-19.
2/ Capitalise on Longer Stays in Isolated Locations
The cities must be a scary place to be right now. For those that can work remotely and afford to escape surely they must be thinking that 2 to 4 weeks in the countryside or by the sea with less people in a beautiful cottage or villa would be a much nicer place to wait this uncertainty out.
Can you offer discounted rates for 2 or 4 weeks to encourage more people to ‘get away’ from it all, I know if I lived in the city I would want out with my family.
Which properties do you have that offer excellent wifi and working space, these places could be a goldmine right now.
With restricted travel and the virus remaining for many months or even years, maybe now is the time to encourage longer stays of 4 – 12 weeks.
3/ Good financial planning
What is your current burn rate?
How much of a drop in bookings can your business withstand?
Some heavily invested companies like ‘Hostmaker’ were too exposed and this mentality of the past could see many more casualties over the next 4 – 8 weeks.
A chase to the bottom on prices never ends well, the coronavirus is an unprecedented event. However events that affect consumer confidence are not so, this means every business must be well prepared for a drop in revenue.
Take this opportunity to look at your expenses, look at your contracts, how can your business become more nimble.
How can it increase spending when strong and operate a leaner and meaner model when business retracts.
Go through your expenses and see what can be dropped immediately, can you reduce working hours, can everyone work from home so their costs are reduced, can anyone take unpaid leave, all temporary measures will ensure your business remains profitable while income has reduced.
iPro is offering some fantastic finance modelling, we have partnered with an expert in this field. If you are interested in learning more contact us today and protect your business from COVID-19 and any future crisis.
4/ Payment Holidays – Loans, Credit Cards & Mortgages
There is no hiding from this, your business is going to be impacted for the worst.
So now is the time to contact any lending companies and request a payment holiday, by reducing your outgoings your business can still trade and you can continue where you left off when business picks up.
You will be entitled to this if you have a good trading history and it could be the lifeline you need to survive.
Also monitor the latest from the government on grants and subsidies as they will want to keep local businesses trading through this turbulent time.
5/ Government assistance
The government will be implementing a number of measures to support local businesses impacted by this pandemic COVID-19, with items such as:
- 100% relief on business rates
- Corona Virus Business Interruption Loan
- Support for businesses paying tax
- Business Bounce Back Loan
So we’ve discussed how we can protect the money you’ve taken while keeping guest loyalty high, we’ve talked about potential booking opportunities and we’ve looked at how you can manage your expenses during tough times.
Lets now look at how we best utilise our time to maximise our bookings once the uncertainty has died down and consumer confidence returns.
6/ Your portfolio of properties – Lets make them the best they have ever been
Mortgage rates are back to the lowest levels they have been, it’s time to take advantage and get owners investing in their property. The market was booming for short term rentals and the competition is high, but prices are still much lower than luxury hotels.
So there is an opportunity to provide a quality product at a premium price.
Get your owners to invest in their property, take advantage of low occupancy and empty periods to make home improvements, decorating, extensions, etc… all these things can now take place.
Also if local businesses have seen demand drop this will create wealth and opportunity locally for builders and tradesmen.
Professional photography sessions, the weather has been improving so now is the time to make every home on your books look a million dollars. Imagine having your best ever portfolio, with a high demand from consumers, you will be able to charge a premium for your properties during the busiest time.
August, September and October could be the busiest months on record, so MAKE sure you don’t miss out on the amazing bookings that will be happening during that time.
7/ Re-negotiate your contracts
I said earlier that low margin competitors will be hit the hardest during this time, it’s critical that you look at your burn rate, how much of a drop in business can you withstand? How long can you trade for with 0 bookings?
Without a good margin you cannot provide a sustainable business, it’s time like these that people understand that every business charges a fair price to ensure the security of the business and so that they can build a war chest that ensures they continue to trade during difficult times.
If you have owners on low percentage contracts, it maybe time to look at how you can increase those margins, so when bookings return you can maximise your growth and provide more security to that owner long term.
Would an owner want 5 – 10 bookings and only pay 10% commission or would they prefer 30 – 40 bookings per year and pay 20 – 25%, I think they would prefer the more bookings route!
8/ Just because its what you have always done, it doesn’t mean its the right way or the best way
Workflows, processes and best practise! You hear me talk about this a lot but when business is good people get lazy, they get contented or they simply don’t have the time to analyse.
However if bookings slow down and staff have more time, now is a perfect time to look at all your processes across the business. Analysis, review and reflect.
What is working? What isn’t working? How can we save time here? If an unprecedented event occurs how do we handle our communications with our team and consumers?
If staff cannot get to work how does the business continue trading? Being prepared is the best way to ensure the least damage to your business.
Ensuring your business can run 24/7/365 is vital to scalability and sustainability, utilise what iPro has to offer with automated communications, schedule an email to all guests with active bookings immediately to let them know what steps you have taken as a company to give them peace of mind.
How do you onboard new owners / properties, do you charge a fee for this service, how do your properties get cleaned how can you ensure there is no infection risk from a changeover of guests as remember this virus will be here until next year and beyond.
Running a short stay agency has many many factors, use this time wisely to ensure you have strategies in place for all eventualities, you have a duty to look after your guests and your owners.
9 / Position yourself for the Bounce
The domestic market will recover ahead of the international market as fear subsides more quickly with internal travel, and restrictions are likely to be lifted sooner.
The pent-up wanderlust of millions of people will come flooding through with it, causing a surge in demand.
If you are currently targeting international clientele can you change your marketing & channel strategies to connect your product with domestic audiences? This is where channel managers will help to target those markets or maybe a multi lingual website.
I wish you all the best through these turbulent times and I hope that by implementing the tips above you will have the best opportunity moving forward.
10/ Launch a new website
If you want to increase your chance of success invest in your one asset that you have full control over your ‘website’. At iPro we have provided 3 options for all our clients:
- Open API Integration – Work with an agency and let them build something amazing
- Simple & Easy to use plugins – Build your own website or work with an agency and simple plugin the powerful features from iPro
- Use our powerful and flexible website builder – Launch your own website in days rather than weeks and months
Its vital that you have a flexible and powerful website that provides the guest with an amazing experience, we live in an age where people cannot wait they are used to instant gratification, so ensure your website allows them to ‘instant’ book with live availability and real time pricing.
11/ Invest in your booking management system
If you really want to grow your business and be able to sustain a drop in bookings, you need to streamline and optimise the way you work. To do that effectively you have to a booking management system that is more than a fancy spreadsheet. Your booking system should be the engine of your business.
iPro is that booking system, it is so much more ‘than a booking system’. It is a CRM based booking management platform that will communicate with your guest from the moment they first make contact to the moment they leave the property.
Everything you need for that guest is stored within their CRM record and full transactional history is available ensuring you can generate next level marketing increasing your direct bookings and your repeat bookings year on year.
iPro was COVID-19 ready, both product and company. We easily adapted to complete home working with all our infrastructure in the cloud. But also iPro the product was able to allow our clients to easily transfer bookings, issue credit notes and vouchers and ensure that a difficult situation was as simple as possible for them to manage.